Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

IN MEMORIAM: Dr. Warren Ulrich Brigham


Warren Brigham on an aquatic insect collecting trip
in Missouri in 1991.

Warren Brigham, aquatic coleopterist, Professional Scientist, and long-time employee of the Illinois Natural History Survey, passed away on August 7, 1996; he was 54.

Warren's interest in aquatic biology was sparked at an early age; by 7th grade his insect collection already was extensive. By the time he graduated from high school, Warren had conducted surveys for fishes using rotenone and block netting, measured water quality parameters, and documented the morphometry of a lake in Wisconsin where his family had a summer cottage. Warren joined the Survey in 1961 as a project assistant. He earned his B.S. degree in zoology from the University of Illinois in 1964. After a two-year period at Tennessee Technical University, where he earned an M.S. degree in zoology and botany, he returned to Champaign to enroll in a doctoral program at the University of Illinois and continue employment as a research assistant in the Section of Aquatic Biology at the Survey. From 1969 through 1972, Warren was the resident biologist at the Survey's Sullivan Field Lab at Lake Shelbyville. Upon completion of his Ph.D. in zoology and civil engineering from the University of Illinois in 1972, he returned to the Survey offices in Champaign, continuing his career as an aquatic biologist. Warren was promoted to Assistant Professional Scientist in 1972, to Associate Professional Scientist in 1976, and to Professional Scientist in 1983. He served as Director of the Center for Biogeographic Information from 1989 through 1992, as Manager of the Illinois Geographic Information System from 1982 through 1992, and most recently as a Professional Scientist in the Office of the Chief of the Survey.

Warren was largely responsible for introducing geographic information systems (GIS) technology to the former Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources and to the state of Illinois. He became interested in GIS in the formative stages of the technology, and this led to the establishment of the Illinois Geographic Information System (IGIS). Warren's enthusiasm for GIS made him one of the premier advocates for GIS across the country and around the world. Under Warren's guidance, the IGIS became a critical resource for researchers working to inventory and analyze the state's natural resources.

Warren's professional accomplishments included authorship or co-authorship of 21 peer-reviewed publications on fishes, aquatic insects, and GIS technology; editor and principal author on the distribution, life histories, and environmental requirements of the aquatic insects of North and South Carolina; co-authorship of the aquatic Coleoptera chapter in the 2nd and 3rd editions of a principal textbook on aquatic entomology for North America; principal or co-investigator on numerous grants and contracts; consultant and principal investigator on GIS, remote sensing, and database management for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which he assisted in establishing GIS and training of staff in Kenya, and in the design of spatial data components for the National Biodiversity Support Program in Indonesia; technical expert on GIS and data management for the National Biodiversity Information Center, Smithsonian Institution, and National Biological Survey; and membership on the Computerization and Networking Committee for the Association of Systematics Collections. In addition, Warren served as a reviewer of proposals, consultant on GIS and database management, and Biological Facilities Panelist for the National Science Foundation.

Warren's memberships in professional organizations included the American Fisheries Society, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Coleopterists Society, Ecological Society of America, Entomological Society of Washington, Kansas (Central States) Entomological Society, North American Benthological Society (NABS), and Societas Internationalis Limnologiae. His involvement in NABS was extensive; he had been a member of the NABS Literature Review Committee since 1971, and had served as program chair, member of the Executive Committee, and member of the Committee on Common and Scientific Names of Aquatic Invertebrates.

Throughout his career, Warren's systematic interest and love for aquatic biology focused on aquatic beetles, especially the Haliplidae, or crawling water beetles; he was perhaps the world's foremost expert with that family. Other systematic interests included Megaloptera, Odonata, and scarab beetles. Tantamount to these systematic interests was the daily review of past and present literature discussing every aspect of the Coleoptera. His compilation of the aquatic Coleoptera section of the NABS bibliography for over 25 years--and his desire to share that information with others, most recently on the World Wide Web--is perhaps his single most important contribution to the scientific community.

Warren was unselfish in his leadership, and with his guidance, advice, knowledge, and insight. His friendship was always warm and sincere, and it endured through times of personal and professional differences. His legacy--one that he practiced more than verbalized--is for us to freely share knowledge and information so others might improve in their expertise, be enlightened to new opportunities, and contribute to basic science worldwide.

Warren is survived by his wife, Aleta; daughters Sarah Holt and Cynthia Brigham; a brother, Warner Brigham; and his parents, Rosemary and Charles Brigham. An endowment fund has been established in his memory to support network integration of research on aquatic Coleoptera. For more information on this endowment fund, please contact Suzanne J. Voegtlin, Illinois Natural History Survey, 172 Natural Resources Building, 607 E. Peabody Dr., Champaign IL 61820; (217) 244-2110; email:

Mark Wetzel, Center for Biodiversity

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